Yesterday, I introduced legislation with Senator Specter to address sexual assaults and intimate partner violence at colleges and universities. S. 4039, the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act (Campus SaVE Act), would establish procedures for responding to an incident of sexual assault or intimate partner violence on college campuses. The Department of Justice estimates that 20 to 25 percent of female undergraduates are victims of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault each year, and the perpetrators are frequently acquaintances.
Sexual assault and intimate partner violence are not like other types of assault. Ninety percent or more of victims do not come forward. Twenty-five percent of the victims do not come forward specifically because they are afraid that they will not be believed or that they will be met with hostility for reporting a sexual assault. In the last two years, there have been six murders of college students in Pennsylvania that were related to intimate partner violence. Five were killed by a partner or former partner. Two of the victims were sexually assaulted or raped. Each of these crimes is a tragedy; none of them should have happened; all of them could have been prevented.
Colleges already report certain crime statistics, but they have not sufficiently established policies for dealing with sexual assault and intimate partner violence, in part because the federal government has not established clear standards. The Campus SaVE Act closes this gap by providing clear standards for what colleges must do to protect and support victims of sexual assault or intimate partner violence. These are common-sense policies like:
- Developing a clear statement of policy outlining the school’s programs to prevent sexual assault and other forms of intimate partner violence like stalking, dating violence, sexual violence and domestic violence;
- Outlining the procedures that must be followed once one of these offenses has occurred, including providing written information to victims about their rights to notify law enforcement, the option of being assisted by campus authorities in contacting the police, the right of victims to obtain protective or restraining orders, and information about resources like advocacy, counseling, health, mental health and legal assistance available to the victim; and
- Agreeing to honor any court orders of protection, no contact or restraint.
The policy statement will include education and prevention activities to raise awareness among students, including:
- Information about the definition of consensual sex,
- How to report sex offenses,
- Bystander intervention, and
- Risk reduction.
Click here to read the text of the Campus SaVE Act.
Today, the Senate passed S. 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act. Because it is my priority to protect the health and safety of Pennsylvanians, I cosponsored and voted for this bill, which provides the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with the tools and authority to ensure contaminated foods are kept out of our kitchens. This bill also includes bipartisan provisions I authored to protect our food supply from smuggled food.
S. 510 improves the FDA’s capacity to detect foodborne illnesses by assessing safety threats at food facilities, increasing inspection of imported foods and exploring new ways to track fruits and vegetables in the case of an outbreak. Under this bill, the FDA will now have the authority to issue a mandatory recall. In addition, S. 510 contains multiple provisions of the EAT SAFE Act, which I introduced in the 110th and 111th Congresses. These provisions add personnel to detect, track and remove smuggled food and call for the development and implementation of strategies to stop food from being smuggled into the country.
A great deal of misinformation about S. 510 has circulated on the internet and through word-of-mouth. I want to bring some clarity to some of misinformation that I have heard. For example, S. 510 does not outlaw home gardens or family farms. Also, the bill exempts small facilities and small farms from regulations, which was purposefully included to protect America’s family farms. This includes food sold through farmers’ markets, bake sales, road side stands, public events, community supported agriculture and fundraisers. Further, S. 510 does not change FDA’s jurisdiction over farms, does not require that farms keep any new food safety-related records and does not create any new rules in regard to the practice of saving seeds for use from year to year. I hope this information is helpful to you. I believe that S. 510 is an important step in modernizing the American food safety system.
As Thanksgiving approaches, many people prepare to share a meal with friends and family. But for some, affording food is a serious concern and a sometimes insurmountable challenge.
A recent USDA report shows an increase in the number of Americans experiencing hunger. I am deeply concerned about this increase. USDA’s report indicates that 33 million adults and 17 million children lived in food insecure households in 2009. Food insecurity exists when households could not provide enough food for everyone due to a lack of resources at some point during the year. Both of these numbers are increases from 2008. But these are not just statistics; these numbers reflect the experiences of our friends and neighbors. And we should all be concerned that so many people are experiencing hunger.
While in the Senate, I introduced numerous pieces of legislation to address the issue of hunger in America, including the Paperless Enrollment for School Meals Act, the Summer Food Service Rural Expansion Act, the Emergency Food Assistance Act and the National Child Hunger Relief Act. Many of the anti-hunger provisions for which I advocated are included in the current Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act. As your Senator, I will continue to fight for these programs and to fight to end hunger, in the holiday season and all year long.
I ask that you help however possible in the fight against hunger in your community. Ending hunger in America is a goal which requires the work of all Americans. A local food bank can be the difference between a neighbor eating a nutritious dinner tonight or going hungry. More information on local Pennsylvania food banks is available through the Pennsylvania Association of Regional Food Banks.
For more information on or to apply to nutrition assistance programs, I encourage you to visit Compass, a website through which Pennsylvanians can apply for a broad range of social programs. You can also learn about a health and nutrition program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) through Pennsylvania’s WIC website.
In 1964, Congress created the Land and Water Conservation Fund to provide funding for parks, forest and wildlife areas. At the time, Congress had a straight-forward idea: the government would use a portion of offshore oil and gas lease revenue to protect and develop our natural resources. The idea garnered significant bipartisan support and passed the Senate by a vote of 92-1. The fund was a great idea in the 1960s when people had significant concerns about public health, environmental issues and an expanding need for recreational space. It remains a great idea today and deserves consistent and sufficient funding.
Pennsylvania has benefited from the Land and Water Conservation Fund in countless ways. For example, in the past 45 years, the fund has helped us acquire and maintain Gettysburg National Military Park, Alleghany National Forest, the Johnstown Flood National Memorial, the Flight 93 National Memorial, the Cherry Valley and the John Heinz Tinicum National Wildlife Refuges, and so many other important sites. We, in the state, visit these locations on family vacations and on weekend day trips and people from other states come to tour these sites.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund has allowed us to protect pieces of our state’s landscape and to preserve historic sites, places that help to define Pennsylvania. Without the fund, these nationally-known sites might not exist. It is essential that Congress provide consistent and sufficient funding so that we as a Nation are able to conserve parts of our unique and beautiful landscape. That is why I am cosponsor of S. 2747, a bill which would make permanent the authorization for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
In the past 45 years, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has financed more than 37,000 projects. These projects established new outdoor locations for all people to enjoy. There are many reasons why it is important we provide locations and opportunities for people to visit the great outdoors, including economic reasons. For example, each year, general outdoor recreation contributes $730 billion to the economy and supports 6.5 million jobs. Last year more than 280 million people visited a national park, putting $13 billion into local economies and creating 250,000 private sector jobs. By consistently financing the Land and Water Conservation Fund, we can promote jobs, local spending and outdoor enjoyment.
Because of the extraordinary pressure placed on our servicemembers due to lengthy deployments and multiple tours, the Department of Defense involuntarily extended servicemembers’ contracts beyond the original term of service during Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. This policy was known as stop-loss affected more than a hundred thousand troops.
In FY2009, I joined my colleagues in successfully pushing for the military to compensate those military personnel who were affected by the stop-loss policy. To date, only 86,000 claims have been filed. Therefore, I want to urge those who were affected by the stop-loss policy to submit their claims for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay, today. The deadline for eligible military personnel to submit claims is Friday, December 3, 2010. The average benefit is $3,800.
For more information, please visit www.defense.gov/stoploss or contact your service at:
- Army 1-877-736-5554
- Navy 1-901-874-4427
- Marine Corps 1-877-242-2830
- Air Force 1-800-525-0102
Eligibility Requirements: Effective Dec. 19, 2009, per the Defense Appropriations Act, stop-lossed servicemembers who voluntarily reenlisted or extended their service, and received a bonus for such reenlistment or extension of service, became no longer eligible to receive retroactive stop loss special pay.